Reviewed by Aldo Longobardi
Convicted for corrupting a minor, window dresser Molina drapes his dreary cell with soft chiffons and posters of his screen idol, Aurora, whom he loves in each of her films, though he fears her as the Spiderwoman who kills with her kiss. He falls in love with Marxist revolutionary Valentin whose kiss proves as lethal as that of the Spiderwoman’s.
Melanie Smith oozed a sense of Black-Widow-meets-Liza-Minelli, luring her victims into her web in the surreal moments of the story. Eden Plaisted was captivating as Valentin, naturally transitioning between the comic, dramatic, and sincere dimensions of his character in both his acting and singing, stirring the audience in the freedom march The Day After That. Hew Wagner had good comic timing in the lighter sections, but the moment-to-moment reality of Molina’s character development was somewhat stilted. Still, in the more sensitive songs he portrayed a tortured soul with unnerving intensity.
Ben Saunders’ orchestra kept energy and pace in the often complex score. The ensemble of inmates were strong in volume, but could have afforded a greater sense of macho overall. The surrealistic Morphine Tango gave them the opportunity to explore their individual comic possibilities to the audience’s delight.Laura Villani and Jenny Scarce-Tolley gave delicate performances in their smaller role, particularly in the quartet Dear One.
Ole Weibkin’s moveable and multifunctional set ingeniously reassembled with clever reveals and was decorated with his unique expressionistic style creating an ominous and imposing feel. Peter Howie juxtaposed this with a bold colour palette in his lighting, complete with illuminating spider web, cutting through the grim reality, coupled with Rayner and Linda Lawson’s glitzy choreography.
Director Max Rayner has assembled a stunning production proving that “If you should ever find yourself in jail, a little fantasy will not fail…”